The Pryor Times

March 13, 2014

Safe room funding process continues for Mayes Co.

Staff Writer
Cydney Baron

PRYOR, OK — Safe room funding has been approved.

Mayes County Emergency Management recently received word that the application to the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program for the funding of individual safe rooms passed the first stage of review.

The county was approved for $294,000 and the city of Pryor was approved for $147,000.

“We took applications for the safe rooms in August and told them it would an 18-month to two-year project, so we're right on schedule,” said MCEM Director Johnny Janzen.

The first stage of review is by the Oklahoma Emergency Management Office, which has been approved.

“So we work on the next stage for six months or so. We have to do applications on each person’s house,” said Janzen.

There were 50 applications in Pryor and 100 in the county with 25 alternates.

“On each application, we have to get historical society approval, flood plain review and approval, Department of Environmental Quality review and USDA review,” said Janzen. “Then we submit that paperwork to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to await funding.”

Jazen said those individuals receiving safe room reimbursement are encouraged to remain patient through the process. While MCEM handles the applications and reviews for the individuals, they understand the difficulty in waiting.

“I am very happy we could get this funding, this is a cool deal,” said Janzen.

The money comes from a disaster recovery fund.

“What happens is, when there is a state disaster, FEMA sends money for assistance. A certain percentage over and beyond that money is placed in an account to fund this type of projects. It sounds awful, but the more disasters there are, the more money there is to spend,” said Janzen.

Oklahoma ranks third in the nation in number of national disasters, so there’s plenty of funding.

MCEM has also been awarded a $51,000 grant to update Pryor's Hazard Mitigation Plan.

“We have three years left on the existing plan, but we don’t want the plan to lapse. We're getting started on renewing it now,” said Janzen.

Janzen said this update is about making sure MCEM has the most current information on file for several entities.

“This is an opportunity for the community to get together and talk about disasters and what kind of projects we can do to lessen the effects,” said Janzen. “The last plan’s project was the safe room project we just approved.”

The last plan also included a project to build a new Emergecy Operations Center and purchase a generator for the fire department. Both of those projects have been completed.

“Now we can move on to new projects. It could be flood, snow, ice or earthquake response. We have monthly meetings and will iron out what plans take priority,” said Janzen.

The meetings are held for emergency responders, firefighters, mayors, city councils and the public, though citizen attendance has been low in the past.

“This is still a little ways off, but now is the time to start thinking about what projects we want to outline,” said Janzen.